Playoff hopes all but lost for TFC

GARETH WHEELER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:25 AM ET

The nail was put in early. The hammer in the coffin came late.

Any slim, pre-existing hope of the playoffs is surely no more, as a Chris Wondolowski hat-trick led the visiting San Jose Earthquakes to a 3-2 victory over Toronto FC in front of 20,064 Saturday at BMO Field.

In their first game at home since the double firing of Mo Johnston and Preki, TFC did nothing to ingratiate themselves to an already hostile crowd. The supporters, frustrated by the club decision to hike season’s ticket price for next year and inferior product on the field, were treated to the same kind of futility they’ve grown accustomed to over four seasons.

San Jose’s superior class under Canadian Head Coach Frank Yallop was apparent from the get-go. TFC’s own Canadian Interim Head Coach, Nick Dasovic put in valiant effort, adjusting his tactics to push for late markers, but it was all for naught. Sloppy defending sealed TFC’s disappointing fate.

It only took two minutes for poor defending to rear its ugly head. Nick Garcia couldn’t handle Earthquakes designated player Geovanni, then Dan Gargan couldn’t contain midfielder Bobby Convey, bringing him down inside the 18-yard box for a penalty.

Convey went down rather easily, but Gargan put himself in a bad situation wrapping his arms around the attacker's upper-body. Wondolowski buried from spot, leaving Stefan Frei helpless against his power strike into the top of the net.

Wondolowski’s second came in the 53rd minute. And although his name goes down on the game-sheet, it was a team goal in every sense of the word.

The Earthquakes gained possession in their own end, and with patience and precision, built up the play with seven different players touching the ball in possession. TFC’s defensive unit, midfield included, was carved up, and striker Ryan Johnson found Wondolowski, whose finish was academic.

Staring at a 2-0 deficit and another loss, the crowd’s frustration was palpable, with boo-birds reigning down much like Johnston’s and Preki’s last game a fortnight ago. There’s no question the problems run much deeper at the club.

Anti-ownership signage became visible. Stadium staff took down a sign reading “All for $1”. But the North End Elite supporters were undeterred, unveiling their massive “ML$E – MAKING LO$ING $EEM EA$Y” banner.

“Losing easy” became ironic in the 66th minute with TFC cutting the lead through their inspirational Captain.

Dwayne De Rosario, deputized on the outside left, did well to create space for himself at the top corner of the box. Upon gaining possession, De Rosario expertly steered an in-swinging strike into the top right corner, an absolute picture perfect goal, leaving goalkeeper Jon Busch for waste.

Instead of his trademark goal celebration “stomp”, De Rosario made a “sign the check” gesture in the apparent direction of TFC management. The man wants to get paid. And who’s to say the man that’s scored almost half of TFC’s league goals doesn’t deserve more?

The virtual ink on De Rosario’s palm couldn’t have been dry before San Jose restored their two-goal advantage.

Just a minute later, more porous TFC defending left Wondolowski wide open on the far post with enough time to smash home his third of the match, burying the home side.

Maicon Santos cut the lead in the 79th minute, finishing from the doorstep. And TFC pressed for an equalizer after. Jacob Peterson came closest in the 89th minute, misfiring high and wide after being sent in alone on Busch. An ugly miss, but apropos to the lack of finishing the wide-man has displayed wearing Red.

In fairness, a draw would have meant very little. Three points were vital. And playoff dreams have gone from long shot to shattered.

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Good

Earthquakes midfielder Sam Cronin made a triumphant return to BMO Field, like so many other former TFC players. Cronin, a defensive central midfielder played strong, inspired soccer throughout. Cronin never played in the middle of the park at TFC, instead was played out of position. Mo Johnston always believed Cronin was integral to the future success at TFC. After the game, Yallop echoed that sentiment, raving about Cronin’s quality. Good to see a good kid and a good player in a proper situation.

Bad

Starting wingbacks Nick Garcia and Raivis Hscanovics neither have the pace or marking ability to play their positions effectively. San Jose’s goals were all created down the wings, taking advantage of poor coverage. TFC played better when shifting to three at the back.

Also, getting to and leaving BMO Field was a nightmare due to construction and road closures. Many spectators were late to the game because of the delays. And gridlock post-game was a further kick in the teeth.

Ugly

Mista’s 60th minute wide-open missed header from just outside the six-yard box is unacceptable for a player of his quality and designation. The signing of Mista as a Designated Player was one of convenience rather than ambition. That’s what happens when the depth of the teams scouting system is no more than in-team connections. Post-game, Yallop and Cronin raved of Earthquakes DP, Geovanni and the difference he’s made since joining the team mid-August. San Jose’s climb up the standings is evidence of his influence.


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